When Faculty of Agriculture Engineering student Haley Matthews was a participant of the Imhotep's Legacy Academy, she was the only woman on the Truro team. Now, seven years later, that same team is made up of mostly girls — with Haley as their head coach.
“I hope I have encouraged young females to pursue STEM-related careers related careers,” Haley says of the students she has coached and mentored.
Inspiring youth in STEM subjects
The Imhotep's Legacy Acadeny (ILA) is an outreach program for children of African descent focused on STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, mathematics).
Hosted through Dalhousie University, the program is offered at three levels of education (junior high, high school and university) and provides cumulative entrance scholarships to Dal for participants with outstanding grades and community involvement. By focusing on several subject areas in science and adopting a mentoring scheme, ILA offers a unique approach to enhancing the quality of math and science education for young learners of African descent.
Haley, who is originally from Toronto but moved to Truro when she was 12 years old, has been involved in the ILA since she was in grade 7. She began as a participant in junior high through ILA’s After School Program (ASP) and First LEGO League (FLL), both of which introduce students to curriculum-related science and math activities through mentors — post-secondary students enrolled in STEM related studies themselves.
She then volunteered as an assistant coach for robotics in 2014, and in 2015 was employed as a coach. Now, she is the LEGO League team’s head coach.
“My job is to prepare students for the competition this coming September,” she says. “I teach programing, building and more.”
Finding her path
Set to graduate this May, Haley has spent the last two years studying Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Dal Agricultural Campus, specializing in biomedical engineering (BME) — a type of engineering that applies engineering principles and design concepts to medicine and biology for healthcare purposes. BME is used to advance health care treatment, including diagnosis, monitoring and therapy.
She had originally wanted to study pre-med, minoring in neuroscience, but changed her mind prior to university.
“I realized I didn’t really see myself as a physician. I want to have an impact on society globally and I think I can contribute through research within my discipline.”
She says studying at Dal AC was a perfect choice for her. “It is very close to home and was convenient for my family financially for me to do my first two years here,” she says. “The professors are kind and always remember your name.”
That said, it hasn’t always been easy. “To anyone entering this program, be willing to put the work and time into becoming an engineer. Take it seriously and try to comprehend the courses you take which aren’t heavily related to your discipline. Above all, think of grades as nothing more than grades. University is not a competition between you and your peers. Always consult an advisor even when you are doing well.”
Looking to her future
After graduation, Haley plans to complete her Bachelor of Engineering degree at Dal’s Halifax campuses, after which she has her sights set on research and graduate studies.
“I hope my future research contributes to the greater good of knowledge in my profession,” Haley explains. “I would like to share my knowledge with a global network of academics in my profession.”
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